“’Let them sing, Mr. Narváez,’ said the Marquis addressing the foreman. «While they sing they don’t think, Mr. Narváez…» he reminded him, as he always did on visits to the plantations. ”
It is a monotonous singsong, a lugubrious song of pain and protest, the one that accompanies the work of slaves and female slaves in the sugar cane fields dell’ingenuity The Merced. But the Marquis Santadoma does not know the words and cannot know. It is enough for him that the men and women he has bought work, without thinking, while the cracking of the whip, the shouted orders, the noise of the machetes are added to that song.
Cuba, Spanish Empire, 1856: the slaves keep coming clandestinely from Africa. Spain, unique among Western countries, has not yet abolished slavery in its colonial possessions.
On the beach of Jibacoa a precious cargo lands, 700 little girls. Between them Stay, you have yoruba eleven years old originally from Guinea. She will be a slave, her back lacerated by lashes, given to other slaves so that she can procreate flesh to work, sing and not think. But Kaweka is also a chosen one, a healer, able to welcome the divinity, being possessed by the goddess Yemayá, capricious and fickle. She thinks, raises her head and fights.
“«Mulatta, damn it!» she retorted when it came to defending her origins, proud of the color of her skin. ”
In the elegant Salamanca district of Madrid, in 2017, Mary Rule Blasco, soprano nominee Lita, is manager in the bank of the Marquis Santadoma. Daughter of the maid Concepción, who has always been in the service of the wealthy banking family, Lita had the opportunity to study and start a career.
It doesn’t matter how talented she is, for many she is still the brunette, a café-au-lait-skinned curiosity who incredibly sits at the meeting tables, takes care of business, speaks English, instead of serving as the mother. “”The recommended daughter of the maid,” they whispered, like an unappealable sentence.”
The cursed inheritance of the origins weighs on her: the shadow of distant slavery occasionally filters into his thoughtsbecause there is not a single black Cuban who is not the descendant of a slave.
It is the struggle for freedom that connects a colonial-era plantation girl and a modern-day professional: Slave of freedom (Longanesi, translation by Pino Cacucci, Camilla Falsetti Spikermann, Claudia Marseguerra) tells about two different women, separated in timeunited by a very strong bond, who both fight for theirs idea of justice.
Able to make historical narration with an eye to the role of the oppressed, afterwards the Cathedral of the Sea e The painter of souls, Ildefonso Falcones build here a history of parallelisms, through alternating timelines up to cancel the distances and establish a connection that is the center of his reflection and his story: slavery is not a thing of the past, it is a living reality. Lita is mulatta, daughter of a mulatta, descended from black slaves, who lived just over a hundred years earlier, united for just two generations.
And while we live in full International Decade for the Defense of Afro-Descendants, United Nations program that aims to defend the rights of descendants of colonial-era slaves around the world, we realize how much there is still to be done. The racism continues to win, and its roots lie in a much more recent history than we perceive.
“I’m a mulatta and I’m certainly descended from those slaves on the Marquis’s plantation who cut the sugar cane. And what is being sold at this table is nothing but the fruit of their blood, of their lives! Probably also that of some of my ancestors who died under the whip of the Santadomas.’
Falcones frees the theme from simplification and from stereotypeschoose not to use the dialect muzzlethe language of the slavesin order not to risk distance, misunderstanding or even worse a caricature effect, works with immediacyproximity and brutality to bring to life a complex and shameful historical context.
Freedom is won by fightingin every time: to the scream of Long live Free Cuba! Kaweka accepts a destiny of war, for the freedom of her people, Lita discovers a connection to her origins stronger than she thoughturgent, and makes it a banner against the injustices of blood money.
Falcones reclaims the dignity of an entire civilization, recounting a global historical struggle, which passes from Cuban plantations, arrives at the diamond fields in Africa, crosses power and greed on the shoulders of a mutilated people, an exploited continent, a humiliated race.
While the Durban Final Declaration recognized that the African people, victims of slaverycontinues to suffer the consequences and efforts are multiplied for moral, juridical and economic reparations to the aphrodiscendantstay theemergency never solved of discrimination, racism, xenophobia and intolerance still persistent.
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The yearning for freedom is the protagonist of Falcones’ pen, which puts in the latter novel its long experience weaving storylines on the careful documentation of history, but it does so by opening up to multiple esoteric nuances that creep into the story and pervade it with ecstasy, wild dances, drum beats, and ritual offerings. Santeria is an integral part of the two events, both linked to religion, to a burning sense of divinity: the orisha they take possession of will and word, they send into a trance, they unleash whoever is possessed by them. Divinity is part of life, a stubborn bearer of truth and commitment, an ally of resistance and struggle: it is a bond of belonging and revenge.
Enjoying the magic of the divine is the key to feeling part of a reality that unites the spirits of all those dead and that mobilizes many, women related by blood like Lita and Kaweka, to pass on the baton, and to believe in a new sacrifice, a path towards freedom, which does not allow for compromises.
Mixing magic and realism, in an epic that crosses the years and countries, the cannon wars and those of capitalismthe violence of whipping and that of discrimination, Slave of freedom weaves a web of history, abuse, rebellion and dignity that ends up uniting us all, because it affects the whole world.
“Lita fixed her gaze on that black Virgin with the blue cloak. It was not only Regla, but also Yemayá, the goddess of the seas, and she showed herself to her. Their spirits merged and an immense joy pervaded her. There was no room for fear or doubt. Lita had the impression that she was born just for that moment. Her life had no other meaning than to be there, in intimate communion with that little Virgin, the rhythm of the senses punctuated by the agitation of the seas that the goddess dominated ”.